THE day after President Clinton withdrew Lani Guinier's
nomination to be the nation's top civil rights enforcer,
conservative lawyer Clint Bolick could not have been more pleased
to talk all about it.
For it was Mr. Bolick who fired the first salvo - a column in
the Wall Street Journal titled "Clinton's Quota Queens" - after Ms.
Guinier's nomination was announced April 29.
Guinier, the column stated, "sets the standard for innovative
radicalism" in her views on civil rights. She "calls for racial
quotas in judicial appointments" and "demands equal legislative
outcomes, requiring abandonment not only of the `one person, one
vote' principle, but majority rule itself," Bolick wrote.
The White House said nothing.
On the eve of Mr. Clinton's June 3 announcement that Guinier was
no longer his choice, Guinier gave her first public defense: an
ABC-TV "Nightline" appearance. She stated unequivocally that she
does not believe in any quotas and does not have "any quarrel with
But it was too late. Clinton was already set to pull the plug.
Furthermore, it was not supposed to be Guinier's job to defend
herself. The White House had asked her, as is customary with
executive-branch nominations, not to give interviews before her
In the post-mortems on the Guinier flap, finger-pointing is
rampant: The White House counsel's office is being blamed for not
seeing that Guinier's provocative writings could cause political
problems. The communications office is being blamed for not
countering the conservative campaign against Guinier. And the
president is being blamed for getting caught in a lose-lose
situation in which he either denies his friend the opportunity to
explain herself in Senate hearings, or goes ahead with hearings he
fears could heighten racial polarizaJJ"j But the fatal error,
Guinier's supporters say, was the White House's failure to counter
the "quota queen" epithet, which worked its way into other media
and into the Zeitgeist. In Newsweek's May 24 issue, an article on
the Guinier nomination was titled "Crowning a `Quota Queen'?" Just
as 1987 Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork never recovered from
early definition by his opponents, neither did Guinier.
"After the original attack on Lani, the White House should have
responded forcefully and put Bolick on the defensive," says Jim
Coleman, a law professor at Duke University and friend of Guinier.
"The label `quota queen' was sexist and racist."
Just as Bolick was preparing his opposition to Guinier weeks
before her actual nomination, so too was Dr. Coleman working on her
"I got involved when White House staff started raising questions
about her," he says. …